Our Readers' Opinions
November 1, 2013
Reparations – Yes or No?

Fri Nov 01, 2013

Editor: I find the reparations topic a most interesting and important one at this point in our development as a Caribbean civilization. One really has to urge oneself to think about the topic from all sides in order to make a decision of yes or no support, a decision that sits well in your gut. For me, as a Caribbean mutt with ethnic backgrounds from almost every continent and race, it puts me in a precarious position and creates a bit of fear in even entering into the discussion.{{more}} My great grandparents and beyond could easily have been all of: slave masters, colonial administrators, plantation foremen, merchants, shop keepers, bakers, slaves and indentured servants. However, as a member of the Caribbean diaspora, and an adamant supporter of connecting our dots as a Caribbean civilization within the global village, I find myself fearlessly entering into the discussion.

I will acknowledge that sitting in the diaspora probably makes it easier to enter into independent thoughts, as it would appear that political divisions in SVG and the region seem to be at the centre of every important and unimportant topic in the Caribbean. I must, therefore, first acknowledge those living in the Caribbean who fearlessly pursue and promote independent thought and discussions! I wish to share simply that I have not found a clear-cut answer of yes or no to reparations that is true to my core and here are my considerations to date.

On one hand, I understand the long-term damage to the region resulting from colonialism and slavery. It is financial, it is economic, it is social, it is political, it is environmental, it affects health, it affects wealth etc, but most importantly it affects psyche and simply our day-to-day mentality and functioning within ourselves and with each other. I am not sure that even the colonial masters, in their greedy operations of the colonial times, could ever have estimated or even cared to estimate the long- term impacts to the mentality on all sides.

I support all reparations at a Caribbean civilization level that will assist in the continuous development of all these severely damaged areas. My concern, though, is the approach to this important topic and that if we are not careful, the very mentality that we seek to advance could be severely set back another few decades or even centuries. I therefore implore all political people, all financial people, all economic people, all social workers, all psychologists, all health care people, all education people, all business people, all media people, all religious people, all spiritual people, every man and woman, every child, everyone in our societies, to get involved. Educate yourself, be informed, analyse the pros and cons, make your own decisions, become ENGAGED. Some of the questions that come to my mind and are shared by many of you are:

Who are all the stakeholders? Is the approach reasonable? Is the approach fair? Is the approach the best way to heal the wrongs of the past? Has too much time passed or not for actual tangible compensation? Who is responsible for what for whom from the past? Who is suing whom? Who is paying the legal firm if the case is not successful, or if it is successful, what percentage will the firm get? What exactly is needed to move forward? Is it only money or other vital assistance in expertise etc.? Do we have a plan in place to move forward? Is it because overseas funding has dried up /reduced in these times of economic downturn that this has become more relevant? Are we alienating those who have provided overseas funding to date and has that been a form of “reparations”? Which organizations will collect and administer the funds/ expertise? Who can we trust? Is it a one-time deal or ongoing? Is there a timetable? Are we distracting ourselves from crucial topics in front of us now for development forward in our Caribbean civilization that we are struggling to address? Do we have contingency plans for our way forward if nothing or not much comes of this effort? Have SMART goals been set (SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely)?

My concern is that reparation monies at a Caribbean civilization level could fall into the wrong hands. I urge all the leaders in these efforts to be very careful in the selection and set-up of organizations that need to administer funds/ expertise and monitor progress for successful outcomes, if funds/expertise are successfully obtained as valuable inputs in moving forward in our development as a Caribbean civilization. Let us not forget that mentality itself is our biggest setback/impact in that which we are seeking to address, that is, the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Let us not forget that we have both good and bad track records on many of our development projects to date in the region. We have a lot of manipulation of the mentality impact going on in these discussions from various sides. We have a lot of opportunists in these discussions. We have a lot of fair-minded and progressive people in these discussions. We have a lot of knowledgeable people in these discussions. We have a lot of well-intentioned people in these discussions. We are all at varying degrees in these discussions. Let us listen to all sides and make up our own minds. Let us learn. Let us think. Let us analyse. Let us understand. Let us work together for progressive outcomes. Many of the questions above may or may not have been answered to date for many of us. We should all feel free to ask more questions and seek more answers.

Let us be mindful, my friends. Let us be mindful. This is not about you versus me. This is not about yellow versus red. This is about you and me! This is about the advancement of Caribbean civilization! Let us hold hands and connect our dots!

Alana Gumbs